Counter 32: Enchanted Parhelion
Seventeen minutes after three o’clock in the afternoon
On the other side of the green dorm area
Daisuke is running at full speed. Some telepaths are probably inside the dorms. They are providing support by surveying the surrounding area with their power and then communicate with those in the frontlines. On his way, Daisuke encounters some wounded students who look dazzled, their stance is unsteady. Some of them are murmuring with others as they monitor the metaghosts that are passing by without reacting to them. As of the moment, nobody dares to approach the scattered metaghost around. Perhaps, they are still afraid that the previous explosions may again strike them.
“Hey, red-zone guy, what are you doing running around like that?!” The girl with tribal tattoos calls at him as he approaches the dorm.
“You’re… Miss Tattoo,” Daisuke fixes his eyes on the tattoos.
“It’s Robin Yilgrim,” she replies with a stern look.
“Yes, Robin then.” He scratches the back of his ear. He looks around and notices that a lot of students are injured. Thankfully, Azalea’s healing spell is working on them too. “Do you know any available telepath around?”
“Well… there is…” Robin answers with creased brows, her head tilts slightly. “Ezekiel! Ezekiel, can you call Eukari here?”
“On my way!” A blonde guy who is looking after an injured student replies with thumbs up before dashing inside the dorms.
“Thanks,” Daisuke politely bows before averting his eyes.
Robin stares at him for a while. “We should be the one thanking you,” she says as her lips arch. “You’re from the red but here you are helping us.”
“No… Honestly I didn’t really wanna get involved in this chaos this far.” Daisuke averts his eyes from the smoke-filled ground. “It’s just that someone showed me something quite unbelievable and I thought it’ll be a shame to back out at this point.”
“Someone?” She asks with a really curious expression.
“Well--” Daisuke cannot finish his reply as a sudden zapping sound alarms both of them. “What in the world--?!!” He growls while turning his head towards the source of the noise.
“Good afternoon,” Professor Claws is suddenly standing close to them. “I’m done with my assignment so I’ve come to assist here. Wow, just wow. This is much worse than I expected.” He rattles without break while observing the surroundings.
“Prof…” They mumble.
“What’s exactly is he expecting?” Daisuke grumbles.
“Don’t mind what I said… I was just thinking of one reckless child.” Professor Claws answers languidly. “Some teleporter I managed to grab on the way helped me… though he said he can’t teleport himself with the object so I’m here alone.” He adds while fixing his droopy eyes towards Daisuke and Robin. He sighs and then scratches his haggardly shaved cheeks. “So, do we have any healthy telepath around?”
While Daisuke and Robin stare at each other, the student who left a while ago returns. “I brought Eukari!” He shouts with a polite tone while guiding the girl on her way.
“Ah, it’s the girl with Miss Tattoo before…” Daisuke says softly.
“W-what did you need me for, Robin?” Her sweet voice chimes as her face turns red.
Robin clears her throat. “Eu, it seems like you’re a bit popular with some guys today.” She responds with a teasing smile. “So, prof and…”
“Excuse me,” Professor Claws marches closer to Eukari. “Are you the only one available? Okay, contact other telepaths first. Then connect with every student as far as you can reach, I’m taking command from here on.”
“E-eh? W-w-wait--” Eukarie answers in panic as she stares at the professor’s unkempt hair. “I can only connect with people I’ve touched within an hour.”
“Then, any other… BK telepath here? Can you contact them?” Professor Claws asks with looking around.
She gasps. “Yes, I think there is one observing from the second--”
“Just contact them and get their asses down here.” He cuts her answer short. “Hey, you from Smash,” he fixes his eyes on Daisuke. “Brief me with the situation.”
“Y-yes sir,” Daisuke responds attentively. “How did I end up being in the middle of all this?” He sighs before following the professor.
Professor Claws is directing the groups of student who are still able to fight to rally in front of the dorm to take out the closing in metaghosts. One group of five fights against one metaghost while another group supports them by looking out for any threat that may come their way. Professor Claws also hand-picked few students to act as unit commanders to look after groups that are assigned farther from the dorm. With the help of the students who have abilities and physical strength unfit for combat, all of the wounded have been carried inside the dorm and are continuously being treated by Azalea’s Healing Aura. Meanwhile, the gravely injured students are attended by available healers to make up with the prolonged healing process. Many of the gravely injured are either hit by the bullets from the metaghosts’ machine gun, or hit by the shrapnel from the metaghosts’ self-destruct function. Healing Aura did not close the wounds; it simply stopped the bleeding and maintained the patients’ vital signs while they are waiting for proper treatment. Without the help of Healing Aura, many of the students would have either get irreversible injuries or die due to excessive bleeding.
On the other hand, Azalea’s group is still isolated from the rest of the students that are fighting. Though Blair and Emil have recovered, Azalea is experiencing the opposite with her continuous healing that does not distinguish between humans and other living organisms around. Calming Light helps the students feel relieved by influencing the flow of their mana. After a while, she decides to cancel it to give herself a window of recovery. Even then, the light in her eyes are not returning. Her slow breathing becomes livelier as the hymn of the battle sparks again, but it is nowhere near normal. The tiny lights radiates from her body like there is no end to them.
“Az,” Blair calls while staring at her suspended posture. “Are you fine like that? You look really stiff… and it makes me feel stiff too.”
“What the hell are you even talking about?” Azalea replies while averting her gaze from Blair’s eyes. “I can hold on for a bit.” She can barely move her right arm now due to the pain but she is not letting any reaction show on her face. Maybe it will be better if she distances herself from them. “I can feel the expanding reach of the Healing Aura. Somewhere… north-east direction, someone needs immediate healing.”
“We can’t leave you in this vulnerable state, you know.” Emil responds strictly.
“I’m only casting one spell right now so I would be able to defend myself in case something happens.” Azalea answers with a smile so gentle it feels unreal. “Also… it seems I won’t be alone even if I want to.”
Emil’s brow rises while looking around. “Hmp-! That damn creepy stalker.”
“We must move at least in pairs right now.” Azalea insists. “I know you haven’t fully recovered yet but I’ll be more at ease if you can keep your eye on Blair.”
After listening to her soft plea, Emil cannot say anything to refute.
“Hey,” Blair breaks the silence between them, “Don’t you think it’s weird that no robots have come close to us for like a very long time now?”
Azalea keeps a flat smile while looking in a different direction. “Let’s not waste our time here. Someone is in need of help.”
“You aren’t supposed to be that naïve, Azalea.” That deep voice rings again. It is Malikk, a tone so cold and grim. His figure becomes more recognizable as he continues his speech. “What are you trying so hard to achieve?” He asks while circling around Azalea.
“Hey, don’t just brush it off like that.” Blair frowns.
Malikk chuckles and then he looks directly into her eyes. “Azalea… What are so afraid of?”
She keeps her silence. The little balls of light of her healing aura do not stop floating away. The magic circles that keeps on appearing and disappearing around her right arm does not cease its activity. In her eyes, as deep, dark and cold as it may seem, there is a burning desire inside that prevents her from falling.
“Right,” she says softly. “I forgot to add your stubborn reasoning into the equation.”
“HuuUUHH~?!! What’s that supposed to mean?” Blair grumbles as her eyebrows cross.
“I can see some shadows not far from here.” Emil looks at the direction Azalea told them earlier. “There must be someone there! Blair, let’s go!”
Blair glances at Azalea for the last time before swiftly following Emil.
“They must struggle to save themselves, was it?” Malikk’s dismal voice echoes from behind. “Aren’t you contradicting your own words with such action?”
“Malikk, I’ve always been struggling.” Azalea answers with a soft voice. “There is always chaos within... A never-ending war between my logic and my emotions.”
“And?.. Which side is winning?”
“Neither… I must always keep them in balance… though there are instances when… I fail to… It’s hard. It’s really hard.”
“Then let go. Let loose...”
“I’m really really tired right now. So, would you just shut up.”
Malikk laughs. “Fine. I’ve already ran out of time anyway.”
“Is this all you wanted to see?”
“I told you, I ran out of time.” His ghost-like appearance is starting to become more transparent. “I hope to meet you physically next time.”
“I’d rather not… you’re making me nauseous.”
Azalea takes a deep breath. The beads of sweat on her forehead have turned red. She wipes it with her hand before a drop rolls down her cheeks.
“Hey--!!” A male voice calls out. “You there!”
Two students from the green-zone are approaching. The male have blonde hair, and he seems quite tall. The female have black hair in Mohawk and eye-catching tribal tattoo covering her right arm.
“Are you alone here?” Robin asks the moment she gets close enough.. “Y-your...”
Ezekiel looks stunned for a while. “Purple… her eyes… A-azul?...”
“You’re wearing an armor… are you a student here?” Robin seems to be on guard.
“I… I’m from the green-zone…” Azalea’s tone is soft making her sound weak.
Robin is still a little doubtful until she noticed that the glowing lights that are healing everyone is radiating from her body.
She then looks around to analyze the situation. After a short while, she seems to have gotten a rough idea.
“A student called Daisuke told us that we’d fine someone important around here.” Robin explains while trying to read into Azalea’s expression. “Are you… that person?..”
“Who knows…” Azalea pulls her hood down to cover her face. “I don’t want to talk right now. I want to conserve my energy.”
Robin fixes her eyes at her for a few seconds. “We’re supposed to pick you up and bring you to a safer place but it doesn’t seem like you have any plans to move… for now.” She turns away and focuses on the surroundings. “Many critically injured students are relying on your healing. We’ll keep you safe until the situation calms down.”
Rather than responding, Azalea concentrates on healing. The exhaustion and the pain she is feeling right now is interfering with the stability of her spell. She does not want to get distracted. If she stops now, she feels like she is going to collapse.
“Umm… Miss Mage…” Ezekiel’s voice rings beside her. “Have we met before?”
“Did we?” She answers without turning towards the man. “I have no idea.”
“I-is that so, sorry.” Ezekiel answers as his cheeks redden. He scratches his head and laughs a bit. “Yeah… I might be mistaking you for someone else… Ha, ha…”
“You know this isn’t the time to be hitting on girls.” Robin raises a brow at his actions.
“I wasn’t.” He mumbles. “Maybe if I get another look at her face clearly… I’ll remember something…”
Ezekiel starts walking from Azalea’s side to get a clearer view of her face in front. The hood that covers almost half of her face is making it harder. He is so focused on her side profile as he moves to see her face until a hand suddenly grabs him from behind.
“Stop bothering her.” Evan appears out of nowhere.
“You are…?” Ezekiel’s sight falls on the weird sword by the man’s side. He frowns while taking a few steps back. “A noble?..”
“If you are simply going to be a pest, then you better leave.” Evan warns. His eyes are cold and piercing.
“Don’t pick unnecessary fights, Evan.” Azalea breathes in deeply. “Another wave is coming,” she says softly. “Coming from the direction of the shore… the last set of those metaghosts is here.”
“Understood.” He smiles as if he did not have that murderous aura a while ago.
While Evan’s attention is at Azalea, Robin summons her yashou that looks like a very large eagle. It immediately flies up to survey the area. She never let her guard down even though there are no visible threats in the area.
“What’s up with him?” Robin softly asks once Ezekiel distances himself. “He doesn’t seem like an enemy.”
“Right.” Ezekiel responds languidly. “I can’t pinpoint the reason why… but he’s making me really uncomfortable.”
Ezekiel who is also a contractor summons a humanoid yashou that is fully covered by gold and white armor. It holds a spear that is radiating sparks. The yashou takes a defensive stance in front of them.
“Well… we better not get too involved with the blue-zone kids.” She replies. “He seems close with the healer mage… is she also from the blue?”
Twenty-seven minutes after three o'clock in the afternoon, the reinforcements from NEPD Special Action Force arrives at the main entrance of AB Academy. They are quick to move in and enforce necessary action against the scattered monsters; however it is taking them more time to suppress the said monsters since most of those have hidden away all over the academy buildings and the forest area. This further delays the NEPD SAF's progress towards the dorms. While the students and some staff that have been fighting are being called back to rest after more or less an hour of endless battles, the students in the dorm continues to hold down their fort.
“Why aren't the reinforcements coming yet?!!” Daisuke shouts as he flings a couple of metaghosts into the air. His breathing is getting heavier as the battle is prolonged. “Can't they at least send people through that wide-ass sea?”
“I have no idea what's happening in the ports but I believe the coast guards won't move since we're not part of their protected area.” Deeveen answers while catching up her breath.
“Wait, where are you from? Weren't you back in the dorms?” He asks while dodging the bullets of a metaghost running wild with its machinegun.
“Woah--!! Don't just jump off close to me!” Deeveen panics and then immediately runs away. “The battle is so intense already! I have no time to pay attention as to where exactly I am.”
“Aren't you destroying the formation?” He wipes his sweat while panting.
“No, I asked not to be in any particular formation along with a few others who could not get along with any groups.”
“That's dangerous, isn't it?”
“No, I am to assist anyone who seems to be in danger.”
“Hey--!!” A different man shouts at them while carrying a severed arm of a metaghost. “You two, don't get to far from the groups. We want to secure the safety of every student.” He adds as his figure becomes clearer. He is a member of BK from the sophomores. “It seems that the SAF is stuck near the admin building and field area.”
Sounds of firing machineguns from different directions are roaring then explosive noises follow.
A mischievous laugh echoes as another shadow arrives. “I ran out of bullets. Gotta grab another one.” He says with a wide grin while carrying a machinegun that looks awfully familiar. “Yoh--!! Jess!!” He calls with rough sounding voice. “Did you get lost too?”
“Aren't you the one who's lost?” The other BK answers then he throws the metaghost's severed arm at the other guy's direction. “Watch your back, dumbass.”
“Yes, yes.” The easy-go-lucky guy nonchalantly marches forward. ‘I've got a message from HQ. They said we might need to hold out for at least another fifteen minutes.” Then he jumps spinning his body as he throws that machinegun at hand. A crashing sound follows then an explosion echoes seconds later. “This light around me makes me feel very alive!” He laughs.
“How crazy could this get?” Daisuke grumbles while looking around at the smokie background that is starting to clear up. “If it weren't for Azalea's healing, we'd be goners now. Spending so much mana for support and such, just how long could she keep this up?”
“Ah—you're one of those guys who brought that injured student a while ago.” He recalls while walking closer to the group.
Several feet behind him are three metaghosts marching in line. He continues forward though his smug face says it all. “That guy got a couple of bullets buried deep in his abdomen. I'm amazed that this healing didn't close the wound rather it simply stopped the bleeding. Right now, some espers are pulling the bullets out using their ability, magnetism, since they were informed that any damage during the operation can be healed by this. I'm curious.-”
“The bullets aren’t made of trandium?” Deeveen raises her voice.
“Nope. They’re normal bullets.” While walking, he continuous to talk with eyes fixed at Daisuke's. “Could you perhaps... introduce us?.. whoever this genius healer is.”
Daisuke stares back at him and smiles a little. “That's...” He turns his face away with a snort. “I'm not the one to decide on such matters. If you are that curious, why don't you try discovering that yourself?”
“So you do know this person, huh.”
Daisuke forces a laugh.
Twenty-one minutes after three o'clock in the afternoon
Near the green dorm's area
Evancross, Ezekiel, and Robin are watching over Azalea as she maintains the healing aura.
The thick smoke briefly covered their vision due to the metaghosts attack. Once the surroundings is cleared, they proceed to fight again. Still, no matter how many of those metaghosts they destroy, it does not seem that they have progressed at all. More metaghosts are rising from the sea in groups of two or three. Some of them randomly move forward while most are attacking anything that registers human-like heat source in their sensors.
“Hey mage--!!” Robin calls loudly while stepping back. Her eyes are focused on the coming metaghosts in groups of two.
“You said a while ago that we are in the last wave, right?”
“Just a little more, huh…” She clicks her tongue then wipes away a drop of sweat sliding down her chin.
“Relax,” Ezekiel says as he moves back to back with Robin. “This'll be the last wave that we'll need to fight. Reinforcements have come.”
Since both of them are contractors, their yashou cannot touch the metaghosts. They can only rely on their yashou for additional support. Most of the fighting is done through close combat using parts of the fallen metaghost as weapons to pound them. If they can make those robots fall, it will be easier to dismantle them since their size and weight makes it difficult for them to get up again.
“DODGE—!!” Emil’s voice suddenly resounds powerfully.
They followed the direction of the voice and they see him running towards their direction. From the opposite side not far from them is a metaghost that has showed its machinegun.
Evancross, Ezekiel, and Robin grab a broken metaghost parts lying around. Each one is large enough to cover a person. They all swiftly position themselves to cover Azalea with the metaghost parts as shields.
As soon as the ear-piercing noise stops they watch Blair leap closer to the metaghost and then she uses her remaining blade to cut through its leg joints. She smoothly jumps away as the crashing sound of its fall rumbles. She then quickly maneuvers back close to Emil’s side.
“Wait-… Can you hear that?” Emil asks while looking around with uneasy expression.
“What do you mean?” Blair responds looking confused. “More metacraps?”
Azalea takes a deep breath before letting out a soft laugh. “That's our cue, I believe.”
“C-cue?..” Emil, Blair, Ezekiel, and Robin repeat while looking so clueless.
Evancross looks up the sky. “It signals the end of our battle.”
Right at that time, people in black and white military grade armor suit with ICA's emblem on them come diving down from the sky. Surprised and all, they look up and see something gigantic floating on the sky above the Nalkad Island. It looks like an island that is detached from the world. It floats not in the sea but in the vastness of the sky as though it is competing with those fluffy clouds for space and attention. The people in black and white suit fall down diving with their jetpacks like hawks locking on their prey. As soon they step on the land, they take off their jetpacks and then swiftly attack the nearest metaghost without thinking twice. They are carrying heavy firearms with bullets that can pierce through the trandium armor of those robots.
They have come well prepared. It will not be long before they see the end of this all.
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